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Thursday, September 15, 2016

X-amining X-Factor Annual #7

"The Historians of Tales Come (Shattershot Part 3)" / "Drowning in Paperwork" / "Cal & Guido"
1992

In a Nutshell
X-Factor tries to stop Spiral from killing Arize

Writer: Fabian Nicieza, Peter David (2nd & 3rd Story)
Penciler: Joe Quesada, Darick Robertson (2nd Story), Joe Madureira (3rd Story)
Inker: Joe Rubinstein, Andrew Pepoy (2nd & 3rd Story)
Letterer: Richard Starkings, Dave Sharpe (2nd & 3rd Story)
Colorist: Kevin Tinsely, Gina Going (2nd Story), Kelly Corverse (3rd Story)
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
Enraged that the pirate network led by Mojo II is beating him in the ratings, Mojo resolves to convince Spiral to kill Arize for him. On Earth, Val Cooper briefs X-Factor on their latest mission: to bring in Spiral, who has been causing trouble, a mission that means more than most to Val since Spiral was once a member of Freedom Force. They track her to South Dakota, where Spiral has in turn located Arize, and interrupt her efforts to kill him. During the course of their fight, Spiral explains that she was once Ricochet Rita, and she wants to kill Arize because he's destined to transform Rita into Spiral. Arize admits as much, as well as the fact that the sorry state of Mojoworld is his fault. He asks Spiral to bring them both back to Mojoworld, so they can begin to make amends, and Spiral agrees.

2nd Story: Drowning in paperwork, Val is tricked by Madrox and Rahne into working late and giving them tickets to a concert she had wanted to attend. Working late alone, she hallucinates being attacked by the massive stacks of paper, until Madrox & Rahne return and guilty admit they tricked her, at which point she redirects her ire towards them.

3rd Story: Cal is bullied at school and, fed up, decides to hire Strong Guy to beat up Cal's bully. Strong Guy is reluctant at first, but feels bad for Cal, and proceeds to scare the bully into leaving Cal alone. However, a few weeks later, Strong Guy checks in on Cal and discovers he's using his relationship with Strong Guy to be a bully himself, and Strong Guy is forced to give him the same treatment as the bully.

Firsts and Other Notables
Hinted at previously, this issue confirms that Spiral is the future form of Ricochet Rita, the stuntwoman whom Longshot befriended in his limited series and which accompanied him back to Mojoworld (the idea being that down the road, Mojo had a captive Rita transformed into Spiral, then sent her back in time to battle Longshot and her younger self).


The story ends in an echo of the conclusion to that miniseries, with Arize and Spiral resolving to return to Mojoworld and makes things right, thus (sort of) setting up the conclusion to the story in X-Force Annual #1. Shatterstar's role in that process is also teased, another setup for the next chapter. It's also hinted pretty strongly that Shatterstar is the child of Longshot & Dazzler, something Nicieza has said wasn't his intent, but, I mean, it's pretty blatant in this issue (even before we get to the Shatterstar "gag" at the end of X-Men #11).


Arize mentions in this issue that the madness of the Spinal Ones on Mojoworld is caused by their absorbtion of television wavelengths coming from Earth, which get twisted in transit. He just sort of casually tosses it off, making me think this is a long-established element of Mojoverse lore I'm forgetting, but this might be the first time that idea is suggested.


The third story in the annual is a riff on Calvin with Hobbes, with Guido stepping in to help a bullied Cal, before it takes a somewhat dark turn and Guido discovers Cal is using his newfound relationship with Guido to set himself up as a bully in his own right.

Future Marvel Knight and Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada draws the main story in this issue. He will take over from Larry Stroman as the new regular penciler of the series following "X-Cutioner's Song", though his run is short, lasting only six issues. Future Uncanny X-Men artist Joe Madureira draws the third back-up story, some of his earliest work for the X-office, and though regular writer Peter David handles the two back-ups, Fabian Nicieza once again writes the "Shattershot" installment.

A Work in Progress
Havok reminds us of the limitations on Quicksilver's power, though it seemed like that was meant to be the result of the deceased Ricochet's power.


The stuck mayo jar from issue #71 makes a return appearance in the main story.


Polaris is able to magnetically levitate celery due to the iron in trace minerals, which becomes a favorite explanation around this time for how characters like her and Magneto are available to affect otherwise non-magnetic organic matter.

X-Factor uses their special flying car which debuted in issue #74 again.


Guido chides Havok for not using his codename during battle.


Havok is uncomfortable leaving Longshot's fate up in the air due to their time together in the X-Men, another nice continuity nod.


Rahne seems uncharacteristically mean-spirited in the second backup story, laughing as Jamie tricks Val into working unnecessarily and losing out on a concert she wanted to attend, though I suppose it could be chalked up to changes in her temperament brought on by the Mutate transformation.

Damage Control, the default organization in the Marvel Universe for cleaning up superhero messes, is referenced in the second story as well.

Artistic Achievements
Quesada turns in a pretty great team shot. I mean, it's beyond ridiculous, in that Guido is enormous relative to everyone else, and I'm not sure why Havok and Polaris are crouched down so low, but I still love it.


The Grim 'n' Gritty 90s
Guido mentions the then-recent economic downturn. Thankfully, the dot com boom will take care of that, and ensure we never have financial problems again.


Val wields a pretty 90s-riffic gun in that team shot.

The president Val thinks she's talking to in the second story is Bush the Elder.


Val finishes off the paper monster in a scene that echoes Linda Hamilton's defeat of the Terminator in the first film.


Austin's Analysis
Taken on its own merits, this is probably the strongest of the four "Shattershot" parts. While the confirmation of the relationship between Ricochet Rita and Spiral is more "making explicit something long hinted at", rather than a true revelation, it's still good to have it confirmed, and lends a little narrative weight to this chapter (and really, the storyline as whole, which is sorely lacking in any kind of narrative weight). Plus, dropping that confirmation into the X-Factor annual makes sense, since Spiral was a member of the new X-Factor's predecessor in the government-sponsored mutant team game. Nicieza using this as the opening to get X-Factor involved in the plot is a shrewd use of continuity, especially since, otherwise, Arize's role in this and connection to X-Factor is pretty negligible.

And there's also the Quesada art. His role as Marvel's second-longest-tenured Editor-in-Chief, and the various decisions made by him or under his reign during that time has somewhat obscured his reputation as an artist these days. I have no idea what the critical consensus of his work is now, but I've always liked it. It seems to combine the energy of the Image guys with an animation-inspired, Mignola-esque quality. It by no means approaches anything like realism (and his storytelling, which gets better, is a little rough here), but it's exaggerated in all the right ways, for maximum effect (and in that regard, looks good on the new X-Factor, which gets a similar look in the regular series from Larry Stroman). Thus, the art here and the use of Spiral combine to raise this issue above the rest of the chapters in this storyline, even though it ultimately has the least to do with "Shattershot" overall.

Next Issue
Tomorrow "Shattershot" concludes in X-Force Annual #1. Next week: X-Men #8 and Excalibur #50.

13 comments:

  1. The non-resolution after this chapter is just frustrating. Arize and Spiral go to Mojoworld to set things right but they don't appear in X-Men 10-11. And the dialogue suggests that the "real" Rita hasn't been turned into Spiral yet at this point but we never see what happens to the "real" Rita- I guess she was turned into Spiral?

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  2. When I interviewed Annie in 2012, she advised that Rita becoming Spiral was not her intention. So as to who Spiral was, it's still up in the air as to who she originally intended.

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  3. In addition,in her original Longshot limited series, Arize explains how the Spineless Ones refused spines as a matter of integrity, and somehow became rulers. His reference to "somehow" suggests that he wasn't responsible for building their "bath chairs"!? So if Arize didn't help them become independently mobile, she intended some other explanation. So, just like FabNic stuffing up his explanation for Psylocke's transformation, he appears to have done it here too!

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  4. Jamie's Bush impersonation is an allusion to Dana Carvey's popular (at the time) version, as I recall. "Prudent at this juncture," and all.

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  5. "the idea being that down the road, Mojo had a captive Rita transformed into Spiral, then sent her back in time to battle Longshot and her younger self"

    So unnecessarily complicated. And people laugh at Cable's origin...

    God only know what Nocenti has planned for Spiral and Rita. I wonder who came up with this idea? Niceieza? Hama? Someone much higher in the X-office? The scene from #248 can be seen as a hint at it, but at the same, it isn't a proper hint, since it seems to be a hint after the fact, more than anything.

    Again, it's s decent story, but nothing special. The set-up for the resolution is nice, but would have worked better as a lead to the #10 - 11 of Volume 2, than the story we end up getting in the next chapter...



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  6. @wwk5d: If you're keen to know what Nocenti had planned, you might like the following (and Ann visited the comments thread): https://fanfix.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/the-origin-of-longshots-family

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  7. Val's assistant Baldrick, who has a cunning plan, is again a reference the British comedy show Blackadder, and Val's snide reply to his announcement should be read in Rowan Atkinson's voice.

    I love how the supporting cast in the Calvin story is true to the original up to and including Moe's blurb font. One of my worst experienced shattering of an illusion in my childhood is the realization that Hobbes is merely a stuffed toy tiger.

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    1. Is he? Keep in mind that it doesn't seem like, for example, Calvin could have tied himself up so tight his parents had trouble untying him.

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    2. My friend, you need to seek out and find the final Calvin and Hobbes strip and see it for yourself to learn the true answer...........

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    3. According to the snopes message board, the "final strip" was a fake:
      http://msgboard.snopes.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=30;t=002612;p=0

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    4. Calvin’s flights of fancy like “Spaceman Spiff” and whatnot were clearly just his imagination but I don’t read Hobbes as being merely a stuffed toy.

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    5. Well I was obviously barely out of ten or something, when I started to notice that in what I thought was a fun quirky comic about a boy with antics and a pet tiger, the said tiger seemed to transform into stuffed animal every time anyone else but Calvin was around, and I tell you there was much more shock-horror from me than than what Calvin shows on those fake final strips upon my realization what that must mean for the "reality" of the Calvin and Hobbes world. Never mind what the ultimate truth is, or if we are supposed to read on the "Calvin's reality" level where there are his self-acknowledged daydreams and a very real Hobbes. "He'll be fine, he has Hobbes" was my anchoring thought for the comic, and then it got shattered.

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  8. I guess David’s out is that since it’s a tribute concert Aretha doesn't actually have to have recorded for Motown to be appearing there, but Val mentioning her being on the bill stopped me short.

    The opening third (roughly) of the main story reads like Nicieza doing a poor imitation of Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League — or, in those series’ lesser moments, simply an imitation — and, in particular, of my least favorite periods of those series, the stuff between Manga Khan and his robots, which the sequences here between Mojo and Major Domo are very like.

    “… which I, of all the Spineless Ones, am immune to…”
    Arize is a Spineless One?!? He literally walked off into the sunset in the previous chapter. Now that I take a look I can see that his legs could be interpreted as cybernetic but I don’t remember that being communicated at any point and they really only come across that way visually in the X-Force annual.

    Given that Arize “moved in a month ago" I guess it took that long for ratings to come in and set Mojo off.

    Spiral’s backstory actually makes a fair amount of sense to me as laid out here, convoluted as it may be, although I still don’t understand what she was doing as a member of Freedom Force.

    Even though the Uncanny annual explicitly traded one team of X-Men for another, I didn’t realize until late this chapter that while this is a continued story it’s not really a crossover in terms of the teams interacting. The X-World is so sprawling that I suppose it doesn’t stretch credulity too much when X-Factor crosses paths with Arize simply because Spiral's going after him and they're going after Spiral.

    I didn’t pick up on any suggestion that Shatterstar is the child of Longshot and Dazzler, so I guess it’s comforting to hear Nicieza didn’t intend that.

    The Cal story had a really lame ending. Not the last couple of pages, as predictable as they were, but the last panel.

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